Thousands in KC could be deported when Trump takes office

Trump will likely rescind DACA program
Posted at 6:17 AM, Jan 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-20 18:56:28-05

The inauguration of Donald Trump could mean a drastic change for hundreds of thousands of people.

They're "Dreamers," people in the United States illegally, whose parents brought them at a young age.

Trump promised to rescind the only program, DACA, that gives Dreamers protection from deportation.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was originally a temporary answer when the Dream Act failed, which would have given a pathway to permanent citizenship.

Thousands in the KC metro are now wondering if they could be sent back to a country they don't remember, including 19-year-old Lisandra. She's a normal teenager. She goes to work, she's a student, with goals of becoming a lawyer. Everything she's worked for could end.

"I would be unemployed. I'd probably have to quit school, I wouldn't be able to pay for school, and go back to living in fear of what may happen tomorrow," Lisandra said.

She came to the United States from Mexico with her mom when she was seven.

"We packed our stuff and left one day," she remembers. "I just knew we were going to be reunited with my dad."

They settled in Kansas City, Kansas, under the radar. She says she was never scared of her status, until high school.

"College was always a dream. That's when it started sinking in, where I had to look for universities and colleges that accepted someone undocumented. There's no help," Lisandra said.

Then came DACA.

Lisandra remembers the day so well.

"That was on my 15th birthday, the exact date. I was like, is this my present from the president? I was really thankful," Lisandra laughs. 

President Obama signed the DACA policy in June 2012. While it's not a pathway to permanent citizenship, it eased those fears embedded into Dreamers for so long.

It's a two-year, $500 renewable permit that gives them a social security number, the ability to work, go to school, and travel.

Since then, 740,000 people have been accepted into the program. More than a million people in the United States are eligible.

The Department of Homeland Security only grants permits to those who meet a strict set of requirements:

  • Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time
  • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS
  • Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012
  • Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Nearly 10,000 young adults in Kansas and Missouri have benefited from DACA since 2012.

"DACA brought me and other students out of the shadows," Lisandra said.

But Trump promised to cancel the program, with support from the GOP under the reasoning that Obama's executive action was an unconstitutional overreach.

"It's a stroke of a pen," immigration attorney Jessica Piedra warns.

Piedra's office on Southwest Boulevard has been swamped with people like Lisandra wondering what will happen to their future.

"The scariest is if he cancels the program and actually starts using their information against the youth, but that's unlikely to happen," Piedra said.

Trump made immigration reform a cornerstone of his campaign, promising to deport millions and those under DACA.

In an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd on August 16, 2015, Trump said "they have to go."

"It has changed how we've been giving advice to immigrant youth," Piedra said.

Immigration attorneys across the board are recommending no new applications or renewals until they know what Trump will do. They're even telling people it's not safe to leave the country post January 20.

Since winning the election, however, Trump seems to have softened his stance on the Dreamers.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Trump said, "We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud. They got brought here at a very young age, they've worked here, they've gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they're in never-never land because they don't know what's going to happen."

Many are waiting to find out what exactly that means.

"Hopefully he'll coordinate with Congress and not take rash action and cancel it completely, or that it would be some sort of transitional period to give Congress time to act," Piedra said. 

New, bi-partisan legislation was introduced in December, the Bridge Act. It's essentially an extension of DACA, a three-year temporary permit, but it would go through Congressional approval.

"So many bright, young people I see in my office everyday, now they have hope to go to college, to get a better job, and in turn are paying more taxes and contributing. Feeling a part of the only country they know," Piedra said.

Lisandra says she has so much to offer, so she's clinging to that hope.

"I don't think I've ever been taught that there was a limit," she says.

"Us as Dreamers, we're the extension of the sacrifice of our parents, and proving that that sacrifice, and leaving everything behind in their countries, was worth it."

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach met with Trump in November to talk immigration, and was considered for a position in the administration.

Kobach weighed in on DACA's future saying, "The President-elect has stated that President Obama's DACA amnesty was a violation of federal law, and the U.S. Court of Appeals has reached the same conclusion. It is likely that the Trump Administration will rescind the DACA directive."

Kobach's office did not respond to a question asking for his stance on the Bridge Act. 




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